Tenet (2020) (SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.
Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.
Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.
Django Unchained (2012) (MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has
regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at
very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django
Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a
director in Kill Bill), I was
pleasantly surprised by Inglourious
Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in
its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular
protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic.
As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was
operating at his zenith. Django Unchained
is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his
all-important aesthetic pr…
Zootropolis (2016) (SPOILERS) The
key to Zootropolis’ creative
success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding
prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal
stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central
duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason
Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an
animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces
or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.
The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).
Moonraker (1979) Depending upon your disposition, and quite
possibly age, Moonraker is either the
Bond film that finally jumped the
shark or the one that is most gloriously redolent of Roger Moore’s knowing take
on the character. Many Bond
aficionados will no doubt utter its name with thinly disguised contempt, just
as they will extol with gravity how Timothy Dalton represented a masterful
return to the core values of the series. If you regard For Your Eyes Only as a refreshing return to basics after the
excesses of the previous two entries, and particularly the space opera
grandstanding of this one, it’s probably fair to say you don’t much like Roger
Moore’s take on Bond.
Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.
Batman (1989) (SPOILERS) There’s Jaws,
there’s Star Wars, and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern
blockbuster. Jaws’ success was so
profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing
was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows.
Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy, to markedly less
enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman
in the company of Jaws as a classic
movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim
Burton put it, it was “more of a cultural
phenomenon than a great movie”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict
that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “mainly boring”.
Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan
incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take
the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock
to the system when Burton did it (even…
Doctor Who Season 26 – Worst to Best I’m not a big Seventh Doctor fan. For me, Doctor Who pretty much ended with Season 23 (and not because it was awful: see here). Yes, there have been a few nu-Who reprieves (mostly notably Matt Smith’s first season), but the McCoy era flaunted an abundance of sins, from a lead who wasn’t up to snuff, to a script-editor messaging his social conscience wrapped in a breeze block (or bilge bag), to production values that made any given earlier era look absurdly lavish in comparison. And then there was the “masterplan” (which at least lends Season 24 a rather innocuous and relatively inoffensive quality by contrast).
Nevertheless, on the occasions I do return to the era, I’m always minded to give it a fair shake. And while that resolve inevitably crumbles within minutes, under the duress of cold harsh reality, it has, at times, led to a positive reappraisal (The Happiness Patrol, and, to an extent, perhaps unfathomably, Time and the Rani). So we’ll see ho…